I will say up front that I did not realize that Magnificence was part of a series when I began reading it. I am not sure if reading the other books would have changed my review or not, as the story seems to stand alright on its own. That being said, I did not enjoy this book. It felt like more of a chore than it should have, and I found the plot both dull and somewhat pointless.
Magnificence follows a woman named Susan Lindley after she finds out that her husband was killed. She goes on to inherit her uncle’s mansion full of taxidermy animals, and that is pretty much it. There are other embellishments throughout the story, such as references to Susan’s constant need to sleep with men (both now and before her husband was dead), and she is not a likeable character. Still, I did find myself at least slightly sympathetic of her situation at losing a husband and having a somewhat complicated relationship with her crippled daughter. Still, this is not the kind of story I was expecting, and it felt devoid of any true purpose.
My main problem with this book isn’t just the empty plot, but it is also Lydia Millet’s writing style. It felt like she was trying far too hard–the prose was often tedious, with an overuse of words that 99% of the general population would need to look up in a dictionary. It often felt like these little additions were added to make the author look smarter, but it had the opposite effect on me. In addition to her perplexing use of adjectives, she repeats herself far too much – often to the point of annoyance. I am not sure what her motive is for writing in this strange manner, but it made me dislike the book before I even delved into the main story line.
Once in the main story line, I noticed that the last part of the book felt extremely rushed and completely unsatisfactory. I think that my review might have been somewhat better if I had read the first two books in the series – perhaps then I would be more fulfilled by the plot that was presented here and could understand more about the characters back story. That being said, I am not interested in reading the other books in the series since I detested this one so much.
Now to be fair, there were a few moments scattered throughout the book where I stopped and thought to myself, “that was really profound”. Little snippets of wisdom portrayed as Susan’s thoughts made me stop and think that Millet might actually have some potential behind all of her embellishments and ramblings. That being said, I think that Millet’s writing style is a love-it or hate-it type of deal, and I did not love it.
Holly has a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and owns a small business with her husband selling fleece and hand-spun yarn. When she is not spinning yarn, she does freelance work as a graphic design artist and is highly involved in animal rescue.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by W.W. Norton & Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.